Kenney's Alberta Conservatives begin attack on workers

Right-wing governments have repeatedly proven that they are against workers' rights. Jason Kenney's has introduced legislation confirming that he is yet another anti-worker premier. — Larry Brown, NUPGE President

Ottawa (31 May 2019) — The Kenney government's first 3 legislative acts are: (Bill 1) an attack on the enviroment , (Bill 2) an attack on workers' rights, and (Bill 3) a massive subsidy to corporations through a major corporate tax cut . 

All three of these major pieces of legislation are not about good public policy and taking action for the future, they are about rewarding corporations and the shareholders of those corporations at the expense of working Albertans and the environment.

Bill 2 is just the beginning of rolling back the gains works made under the NDP government of Rachel Notley

Kenney has rolled back the minimum wage for younger workers, removed guarantees that overtime pay is calculated at time-and-a-half of regular pay and removed card check certification from the Labour Code.

While many provinces have more work to do to update their labour laws, taking away labour rights as Alberta is doing, is disturbing. Kenney has also indicated that he has only just begun going after the reforms put in during the Notley government — reforms that modernized Alberta's labour laws which had been neglected for decades. Now, Premier Kenney is taking Albertans back to the past by turning the clock back on these much-needed labour reforms.

"Exploiting young workers and claiming it is in their interest is positively Orwellian, a 2$ an hour pay cut and not paying young workers equal pay for equal work is best left in the past." said Larry Brown, NUPGE President. Brown said, "These increased restrictions on the ability of unions to organize workers is an attempt to reduce the protection unions provide workers, but you can be sure that unions will not stop fighting for workers rights."

Massive corporate tax cuts puts more strain on public finances

Alberta has introduced tax cuts for large corporations taking the rate from 12 per cent today to 8 per cent by Jan. 1, 2022. The NDP has estimated the province will lose $4.5 billion in revenue over the next 4 years. Increasing the provincial deficit by lowering corporate taxes also allows the Conservative government to claim they need to cut public services like spending on health care and education to balance the budget. Manufacturing a deficit and then saying the government needs to cut the services people need is a deceptive trick that continues to be used by right-wing governments everywhere.

Selling tax cuts on corporations as a way to improve the economy is also deceptive. The fallacy of lower taxes leading to a stronger economy has been disproved for decades; the only thing these corporate tax cuts will strengthen are corporate profits. This is obviously part of a larger plan by Kenney to take the next step in his agenda of attacking public services.

What's on the horizon

Beyond more cuts to key public services resulting from provincial revenues falling because of the lowering of corporate taxes, the Kenney Conservatives have also promised to further attack unions by allowing members to opt-out of the political work done by unions, in line with the rationale of choice under 'right to work' schemes. Kenney also promised protection for scab labour in the public sector. Both of these are on the governments' agenda according to the premier. It will bear watching this government very closely as these types of anti-labour policies could be copied by right-wing governments across the country. It also seems clear that this government will go even further if there is not a strong push back against these very regressive policies.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE